There is much wisdom in death. You have four choices:
1. Deal with death
2. Remain in denial
3. Choose to be indifferent
4. Celebrate it
Sometimes I feel that Points 2 and 3 could overlap or that, Point 3 occurs because of Point 2.
I’ve learnt over the years that death comes with an entire new set of teachings. We are so scared of it and mostly live in this ignorant notion that it usually happens to others and rarely, to us. Perhaps that is why it hits us hard when we have to deal with it.
We also don’t seem to encourage a culture which faces death and the questions it brings. There are two deaths which have been defining moments in my life. When I look back, I don’t think that my life would have been the same if those two deaths didn’t happen.
I lost my grandmother when I was 12. I wasn’t even told about it because I was a ‘child’ but it didn’t take me long to figure it out when you knew that the day didn’t go on as usual.
Ten years later, I dealt with another, unexpected death; that of my uncle’s. All of a sudden, I felt that I was dealing with not one, but two deaths. I constantly looked for ‘closure’ which was an idea sold to me by many over the years.
Today, it is exactly seven years since his death and I am beginning to see a new wisdom emerge from his memory. Their death anniversaries are only a week apart from each other.
With death, we must allow ourselves the mourning. It is alright to cry and perhaps, to admit how you feel that moment will change your life. Sometimes you feel that your life simply cannot continue and that, you must stop.
One of the toughest teachings comes not from those three days of mourning post-death but it comes from those days where people assume that your life has returned to normalcy but you try to cope with that VERY strange feeling of continuing your life, carrying a void with your everyday–in place of that person’s presence. For months, I could not stop thinking that those were the roads where he was driving his car less than two days back, a week back, a month back, a year back…
Then, you learn a skill: to stop your heart from going mad. To reign your feelings.
I had thought that by visiting his grave, I will find closure. So, I did. Except, when I was in the graveyard, I felt so uneasy that I ran back into my car. I did not feel that he was there. So, I learnt another new lesson that day: look for people in the places/things that made them happy; they continue to live there.
Death is like the soft sand that has escaped from our fist. The sooner we stop fighting it, the better it is for us. I know that in some cultures, they celebrate death by laughing, dancing and narrating stories of the dead person. I am not sure if I can do that even now. But I found a way to deal with death and in my own way, I have learnt that the only way to deal with death is not to find a closure (because it doesn’t exist) but to find a way of resurrecting them again.
This year, on my grandmother’s anniversary, I realised that the best way to keep someone alive is in their good work–to do things that they did, that made you happy. To keep their legacy alive in the goodness of what they had given you. She was known for her generosity and I still admire how her door was open to everyone. The hustle-bustle of the house, the foods being cooked, the beggars being served food, the sea of footwear outside her room where half the neighbourhood gathered to watch television–this is what I want to keep alive. It is also the reason why I love inviting friends at home for meals instead of meeting them at a cafe or restaurant.
So, this year, with much peace and acceptance in my heart, I have learnt that people die when you stop living their goodness and appreciating it. Death is metaphysical more than physical. On this day and every day of the year, I live their generosity and kindness. This way, they continue to live and death anniversaries stop haunting me forever.
Thank you for the teachings.